PSA: It’s time to change your car’s Cabin Air Filter

See the picture to the left.  Now ask yourself, “How long has it been since I last changed my cabin air filter, or had it changed?”  If that time frame is either so long it’s no longer in your memory, or it’s been more than a year, it’s time for a change.  Click past the jump for some general-purpose instructions, as well as detailed instructions on removing and replacing the cabin air filter in a 7th generation (currently 2009-2012) Nissan Maxima.

Changing your engine’s air filter is something most driver’s remember to do, at least occasionally.  If you can’t remember that one either, might as well get both.  By replacing your car’s cabin air filter, you’re preventing mold and mildew build-up in the HVAC system, as well as allowing it to work more efficiently, since it won’t have to push air through such a blocked filter any more.  I’ve even had friends who say their air conditioning must be broken, only to have them replace the air filter and realize everything works fine.

When it comes time to change your cabin air filter, most dealerships charge between $50 and $100 to do it for you, so you can save quite a bit of money, especially considering the filter itself should cost between $10 and $30 for most cars and trucks.

The first step is to locate your cabin air filter.  In the case of BMWs, the 3 and 5-series cars tend to have them under the hood, at the base of the windshield.  Most Hondas have them behind the glove compartment.  Older Maximas have them behind the glove compartment as well, but not the 7th generation Maxima, which is what I own.

For owners of the newest body-style Maxima, it’s behind and below the radio, and the most difficult one I’ve ever had the displeasure of replacing, and will be the focus of today’s instructions.  If you’re lucky enough to have a behind-the-glove-compartment filter, follow these steps:

  1. Open the glove compartment
  2. Squeeze its sides to open it further
  3. Find the air filter door or tray
  4. Pull out the old filter and drop in the replacement
  5. Close everything back up
  6. Enjoy the fresh air

For owners of newer Nissan Maximas, continue reading.

  1. Squeeze yourself underneath the dashboard on the passenger side, and locate a thin, rectangular door.  It’s vertical and located above the decorative plastic piece on the side of the instrument panel. (see below these steps for a picture of the door)
  2. Unlatch the door and pull it out.  This shows you a portion of the air filter.  Note that the air filter is taller than the opening it goes in and comes out of, so a bit of manipulation will be required for this job.
  3. Grab a hold of the air filter, either by the attached pull strap, or by squeezing the air filter to get a grip on it.  Pull it out through the aforementioned too-small opening.  If it looks anything like the one seen above, your car will be happier after a replacement goes in.
  4. Making sure the air flow is in the proper direction, either by locating the pull strap or an air flow marker, line up the new filter with the opening.  By compressing the first side to enter, the whole air filter will slide in, and expand to its original shape.
  5. Now for the hard part: reattaching the air filter door.  This involves sliding the top of it into place, and pressing really hard and making sure its catch is properly located.  Of all the steps, this one took me the longest, at around 8 minutes, just to get it to latch back into place.
  6. Finally, your new cabin air filter is in place, ready to keep out bugs, leaves and many airborne particulates.  Now would be a good time to set a reminder to replace it.

The cabin air filter door in a 2010 Nissan Maxima

So, by spending a few minutes, you can save several dollars.  You can either set up monthly reminders to check it, or just plan on replacing the filter every 12 months or 15,000 miles, whichever comes first.  If you drive through particularly dusty areas, or have a high humidity environment, plan on shorter intervals.

by John Suit

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9 Responses to “PSA: It’s time to change your car’s Cabin Air Filter”


  • Thank-you for doing this, so I can do it my self. When we first got our car I went looking for the cabin air filter and didn’t. Have a good feeling about replacing it. With your detail instructions, I feel confidencent in doing this.
    thanks
    Donnie

  • Thanks for the detailed instructions. This has got to be the dumbest thing I have ever seen. I had about the same problem with replacing the door also. Thanks again.

  • This helped tremendiously. The most difficult I’ve had to replace.

  • 2012 Nissan Maxima Cabin Filter Replacement

    Cabin filter is located way under passenger side glovebox. It was not necessary to remove any glovebox components. Simply opened the cover, grabbed hold of the old filter (it’s larger than the opening) and yanked it out. Since the filter is larger than the opening, I put in the new filter by putting a couple elastic bands around it, sliding it part way into place, then cutting the elastic bands. It was tricky, but in the end went in ok.

    Cheers, Tim

  • Thank you for the info.2011 owners manual wasn’t any help said it was located behind glove compartment lol.Now i have to go to auto store and get filter first.
    Now for the major issue,How do you keep mice out?I think the the little *%$#& rodent killed my fan!!!

  • When I had my Maxima, I didn’t have any problems with rodents. The owner’s manual for the Maxima should tell you where the cabin air filter is located. While I had a 2010 model, Nissan must’ve changed the location for 2011+, as is seen in other comments on this post. Good luck!

    -John

  • Good to know! Thanks for the information, Tim!

    -John

  • agreed, i’m not a mechanic but this is the worst design that i have ever seen. no reason it should take this long or be this difficult.

  • I will add another piece of advice to the excellent detailed description for changing the cabin air filter. I too found it to be a very difficult procedure all around. Now for my additional advice. Once the old filter is removed turn the blower on HIGH and change the MODE so the air blows down toward the floorboard which will force air out of the opened filter cavity. In my case there were a lot of dried pine needles that entered the ventilation system, and this procedure blew them all out.

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